The World Cup builds to a climax with semifinals today and tomorrow...
And at least we know that today we'll a Liverpool man in the starting eleven.
The work of Dirk Kuyt in the Dutch squad has been nothing short of spectacular, and much like his work for the club, he's managed to fly under the radar a bit in terms of the impact that he makes. Sadly I can't pretend that I've always been a huge advocate of Kuyt as an impact player, but after the workrate he's displayed in the past few seasons (even with a dip in form here and there), and the fantastic World Cup he's had, he's rightfully earned praise from his manager and teammates.
First, manager Bert van Marwjik:
"I read somewhere that when Rafael Benitez picked a team at Liverpool, he wrote Kuyt's name down first. That says everything. Every player has a period where things don't work out and Liverpool had a very tough year, but Kuyt is extremely important for us. The way he plays shows his passion and enthusiasm, and it is catching."
And captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst:
"Dirk is so important for us. He can play across all the positions up front. The way he fights in a team, his presence, his dedication, it's infectious for the others. It's great having him on the team. For him, it doesn't matter where he plays."
So it goes without saying that we can expect Kuyt in the squad to face Uruguay today, a side that's proven exceptionally difficult to break down thus far. The days of second-guessing his place in the side are far behind us, and here's hoping that his torrid run of form with Holland carries over into what will surely be a pressure-packed start to the season.
As for the other semifinal, there's some questions about whether or not we'll see Fernando Torres. To be fair, there's been questions since he didn't score after coming on as a substitute against Switzerland, but his struggles in front of goal have continued since that time. Vincente del Bosque has started him in four consecutive matches, and while I think he's looked to grow in confidence and form, he still hasn't found his finishing touch. Here's del Bosque's thoughts on his place in the starting eleven:
"He remains a focal point for us. To be on a streak or not, he offers hard work and personality and he'll be our striker. Saying that doesn't mean he's an untouchable starter, but we have full confidence in him."
As usual, there's about a million different ways we could read this. And when the teamsheet is released tomorrow we'll know for sure, but I don't think that del Bosque is saying anything we don't already know (especially as Liverpool supporters). I think the heightened urgency of the World Cup makes the substitutions of Torres more understandable, and the presence of David Villa means that, unfortunately, Torres is temporarily replaceable. Come August, I'm hoping that we don't have to be too worried about how he'll figure in the squad.
Which is something that he's talked about fairly recently, albeit in a mighty pithy manner. It continues to be standard fare, particularly the reasoning behind "needing" talks. Time and time again, whether it's new owners, managers, or squad members, we find ourselves reading one main point:
"...they will explain to me the real situation of how things are at present, the future of the club..."
Keeping in mind that this may or may not be something that he actually said, the basic premise here is that Liverpool are a club very much in need of a defined direction. It validates our worries that the boardroom unrest and turmoil would spill over into the squad, but I don't think that it validates any of the mass exodus talk that we've continually read about this summer.
And I don't think it's as big a mountain to climb as it's been made to be, at least after the ownership debacle is righted. The hiring of Roy Hodgson was, regardless of the varied opinions, one that brought some stability to the summer of our discontent, and if Broughton's assurances regarding the sale of the club prove to be true, we could find Liverpool in a spot far different than our nightmares.
From there, it's likely a matter of signaling intent in the transfer market, providing management with support financially and otherwise, and letting the squad know that the ambition of the club as a whole matches theirs. No big deal, right? It's not exactly reinventing the wheel to state that the front office of Liverpool has stolen away most of the attention from the fact that Liverpool are still a football club, and a return to focusing on the pitch would be a welcomed sight.